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Black v. Petitinato

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 27, 2018

THEADORE BLACK, Plaintiff,
v.
PAROLE OFFICER DOMINIQUE PETITINATO, PO PETITINATO'S PARTNER OF 9-29-2015, SENIOR PO LINDA JEFFERIES, NYS DIVISION OF PAROLE, ALL PAROLE OFFICERS, POLICE OFFICER DAMICO, POLICE OFFICER SANTANA (SANTIAGO), LT. DOYLE, ALL OTHER POLICE OFFICERS, SHERMAN PAYAMI, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Brian M. U.S.D.J.

         Parole Officer Dominique Pettinato, [1] Senior Parole Officer Linda Jefferies, Police Officer Noel D'Amico, and Police Lieutenant Michael Doyle moved for summary judgment on pro se plaintiff Theadore Black's claims of illegal search, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy to violate constitutional rights arising out of a search of his home in 2015. As explained below, defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff was released to parole supervision in July 2015 after serving four years' imprisonment for two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. As a parolee, plaintiff was subject to certain general conditions, including that he permit his parole officer to visit him at his residence and to inspect his person, residence, and property, and that he was forbidden from owning or possessing a deadly weapon or “any dangerous knife.” The apartment where the search at issue took place was plaintiff's approved parole residence. Parole Officer Pettinato visited this residence in July, August, and September 2015.

         The search in question occurred on September 29, 2015, at approximately 9:45 p.m. New York State Parole Officer Pettinato and other parole officers, including Senior Parole Officer Denise Granum (who is not a party to this suit), went to plaintiff's apartment building, accompanied by members of the New York Police Department, including Lieutenant Michael Doyle and Officer Noel D'Amico.[2] The parole officers entered plaintiff's apartment and searched it. The parties disagree about the police officers' role in the search - plaintiff alleges that they also entered the apartment and assisted with the search, while defendants claim that they remained outside.

         During the search, Parole Officer Pettinato discovered a backpack in a hallway closet located in a common area of the apartment. Along with the backpack, the closet contained several boxes with plaintiff's name written on them and men's shoe boxes. The backpack contained a metal knuckle knife, three other knives that appeared to Parole Officer Pettinato to be gravity knives, and four photographs, three of which depicted plaintiff and one of which depicted plaintiff's ex-girlfriend. The parole officers and plaintiff dispute whether plaintiff admitted that the backpack was his when the parole officers found it. However, in his 50-h testimony, [3] plaintiff admitted that the knives belonged to him.

         Plaintiff was taken into custody and was eventually charged with seven violations of his conditions of parole, including possession of the knives. He was also charged in a criminal-court complaint with four counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.

         Parole Officer Pettinato prepared the report to initiate parole-revocation proceedings; Senior Parole Officer Jefferies approved it.

         Pettinato presented the case against plaintiff at a preliminary revocation hearing on October 13, 2015. After that hearing, the parole board concluded that there was probable cause to believe that plaintiff had violated his conditions of parole.

         At the final revocation hearing, plaintiff pleaded guilty to one violation of his parole conditions - failure to report law-enforcement contact - in exchange for the District Attorney withdrawing all of the other charges in the parole warrant. Plaintiff was sentenced to 13 months' imprisonment for the violation, with credit for time served while his parole-revocation proceeding was pending. The criminal charges against plaintiff were eventually dismissed as facially insufficient pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.30(1)(a).

         Plaintiff then brought this suit against parole officers Pettinato and Jefferies and police officers D'Amico and Doyle, alleging unlawful entry and search, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and conspiracy to violate constitutional rights.[4] Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Illegal-Search Claims

         As an initial matter, plaintiff may only assert his own constitutional rights. A litigant generally does not have standing to assert the constitutional rights of others. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 (1975). A “1983 civil rights action is a personal suit and may not be brought by a relative, even the parents, spouse or children of the individual whose civil rights were violated.” Gray-Davis v. Rigby, No. 5:14-CV-1490, 2016 WL 1298131, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2016), appeal dismissed (June 13, 2016) (quoting Barrett v. United States, 622 F.Supp. 574, 591 (S.D.N.Y. 1985)). To the extent plaintiff asserts constitutional claims on behalf of his wife or child, those are not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and are dismissed.

         As to plaintiff's illegal-search claims, defendant parole officers' primary argument is that their search of plaintiff's apartment did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it was rationally and reasonably related to their duties as parole officers, and therefore satisfied the standard articulated by the New York Court of Appeals in People v. Huntley, 43 N.Y.2d 175, 401 N.Y.S.2d 31 (1977). Defendant police officers echo this argument, and add that, even if they and searched entered plaintiff's home as plaintiff claims (which they dispute), their presence or assistance would not have rendered unlawful the parole officers' otherwise lawful search. All four defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity, because, after the Supreme Court's post-Huntley decision in Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843 (2006), it is not clearly established that a New York parole officer must have reasonable suspicion to search a parolee's home.

         A. Constitutionality of the Search under Huntley's ‚ÄúRationally and ...


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